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LEILA AMOS PENDLETON
WASHINGTON, D. C.
19 2 1
Frederick Douglass: A Narrative
BY LEILA AMOS PENDLETON.
THE life of Fredeiifk Douglass reads like a romance, at times
almost tragie in its develoiTment. Born on the forsaken
Eastern fShore of ^laryland, the exact date of his l>iitli
unknown to him, l)orn a slave and suffering all which that condition
entailed in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, he lived to
gain the respect of the whole enlightened world and the admira-
tion and friendship of rulers of the earth.
His mother, having nothing else to liestow upon him. started him
off in life with the resounding cognomen of Frederick Augus'ra;
"Washington Bailey. This name has com])anion3 soon shortened to
"Gus. Bailey," and by the latter title he was knovrn for some ye:irs.
While still very young, he was separated from bis mother, and hi>
earliest recollections of her were that she would often steal from
the plantation where she worked, miles away, and would come to
see him in the middle of the night. She died while her beloved
son v.'as still vt^y young.
At an early age Frederick was sent to Baltimore, loaned as a
comj)?nicn and playmate for little Tommy Auld, son of ^Ir. and
^Irs. Hugh Auld. relations-in-law to Col. Anthony who was Fi'cd's
real o'snier; he remained with the Anlds seven years. While Hugh
Auld was, at the worst, antagonistic to little Fred and at the best
indiff'erent. his wife. Sophia, was friendly, even tender to the
motherless slave child. INIrs. Auld taught him th-^ rudiments
of reading and was very proud of his aptness, but when her hus-
l)and discovered what she was about he sternly forbade her to
When al)()ut sixteen years old, because of a disagreement between
Hugh and Thomas Auld. the latter of whom was now his owner.
Frederick was sent to work with other slave •; on the farm of Edward
Covey, notorious as a ''Negro-breaker." It was here that Fred
made his first resistance against the system of slavery. Covey,
the overseer, had often beaten him most brutally, but at the end
of six months Frederick determined that he should not do so again.
So vigorously did he protect himself by overpowering and fright-
ening' Covey that the latter did not again dare to attack him. Tn
1836 in company AVith some other slaves he made an attemi)t to
escape from slavery. They were caught and Frederick was once
more sent to Hugh Auld in Baltimore.
GopyrigKt. 1921, by Leila Amos Pendleton. Washington. D. C.
Tired of the humiliations and vicissitudes of slavery, he deter-
mined in 1838 to make another bold stroke for freedom, this time
alone. He borrowed a "Sailor's Protection" (of equal value to a
"free paper") from a sea-faring- friend, dressed himself in sailor
fashion and boarded the train to Philadelphia. His calm and dig-
nified deportment, in spite of inward trepidation, 8tood him in good
stead ; three times he was in danger of being- recognized but he
succeeded in reaching the Quaker City unmolested. He went on
to New York the same night, September 3rd, 1838, and found there
a measure of the freedom for which his soul longed.
Fortunately he came under the protection of Mr. David Ruggles.
the Underground Railroad worker, who gave him shelter and from
whose home he sent for his intended wife, ^liss Anna ^lurray, a
free woman of Baltimore. They were married by the Rev. J. W.
C. Pennington, a noted Presbyterian divine of the day. Frederick
Bailey was at that time an expert ship's calker, and upon the
advice of friends he at once took his bride to New Bedford where
there were many opportunities for plying his trade. Here he found
in Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Johnson kind and true friends of his own
race. At Mr. Johnson's suggestion he changed the name of Bailey
for that of Douglass of which character Mr. Johnson had just been
reading in Sir Walter Scott's "Lady of the Lake." Douglass
selected February 14. 1818, as his birthday.
The white workmen threatened to strike if he was employed with
them at his trade of calker, so Douglass was forced to earn a liveli-
hood at whatever came to hand. In his own words he ''sawed
wood, shoveled coal, dug cellars, inoved rubbish from back yards,
worked on the wharves, loaded and unloaded vessels and scoured
their cabins." His first job in liis free estate was to put away a
large pile of coal for the wife of the distinguished ITnitarian min-
ister, Rev. Ephraim Peabody. Humble as were these occupations.
the newly-freed man worked at them gladly, for his time, his labor,
his money were now his own. After this he found a better-paying
grade of employment in an oil factory, then in a brass foundry.
About this time Douglass was given a copy of the Liberator, the
Abolitionist paper of which William Lloyd Garrison was editor,
and shortly after this attended a lecture by Garrison at Liberty
Hall. Here he heard enunciated for the first time the thoughts
and ideals which for years had been surging within him ; naturally
his delight was unbounded.
In 1839, Edwin Thompson, another noted Abolitionst, traveled
through Massachusetts making speeches in the anti-slavery cause.
Mr. Douglass was present at one of these meetings held in New
Bedford, and some years afterward said that after Garrison it
was Thompson who waked him up on the sulyect and by quoting
some of Wliittier's poems, inspired him and made him feel, ind -ed.
a new man. In 1844, ^Mr. Donghiss was, after mueh begging and
pe:sua-ion, induced to rehito to the congregation ( f tlie Rev. 'J'ljomas
James — himself an ex-slave — the stoiy of his experience in slavery.
This was his first public talk, and though his audience wats small
and humble, it is .said he was very nei'vous and ill at ease. This
man who was destined to stir the world by his oratoiy, was at first
overeome by timidity at the thought of addressing an audience of
his o\^^l people.
William C. Coffin was present at this meeting. Later at a large
anti-slavery ccmvention held in Nantucket I\Ir. Coffin sought Doug-
lasG out and prevailed upon him to address the convention. Of
this occasion Mr. Douglass says, "It was with the utmost difficulty
that I could stand erect or that I could command and articulate
two words without hesitation and fetammering. I trembled in every
limb. I am not sure that my embarrassment was not the most
effective part of my speech, if speech it could be called. JNIr. Gar-
rison followed me, taking me as his text. And now, whether I had
made an eloquent plea in behalf of freedom or not, his was one
never to be forgotten. Those who had heard him oftenest and had
known him longest were astonished at his masterly effort." The
result of that meeting was that Douglass was employed as a travel-
ing agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society to solicit sub-
scriptions to the Liberator and the Anti-Slavery Standard. He
addressed many large meetings, and as he was brought to realize
his possession of the divine gift of oratory, he went from triumph
Like water seeking its level, he made one acquaintance after
another among the enlightened, broadminded. cultured people of
Massachusetts; for people of that caliber were the only ones who
were capable of appreciating him. He consorted with the noble
company who were working for the overthrow of slavery — Wendell
Phillips. William Lloyd Garrison, Owen Lovejoy, and many others;
and since he realized that the love of freedom is not bounded by
sex, he threw his support also to the cause of equal suffrage, and
was the friend of such noble women as Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
Lucretia ]\lott. Sojourner Triith, the Grimke sisters, Susan B.
Anthony and a host of others.
It is interesting to note that about this time, the ''Jim. Crow"
ear law was in full force in iNFassachusetts and colored persons were
forced to travel in a rough car with hard seats, mueh as in the
case in the Southern States today. Those who prote>;ted against
this and entered other ears, were thrown off. While the colored
people generally accepted this condition, ^W. Douglass had many
altercations with conductors and brakenien ; l)ut his own people
complained of him as making matters worse instead of better by
refusing to submit to this proscription. He, however, persisted
and sometimes was soundly beaten. On one occasion, in Lynn,
several seats were broken in trying to get him out as he had become
"so much attached" to his place. The outcome of that occurence
Avas that the Abolitionists took up the fight against the "Jim-
Crow" car and did not cease until the abominations were removed
from New P^ngland.
This brings to mind a story told of .Mr. Douglass and the Jim-
Crow cars of the South.
It is said that on a. certain occasion he had an engagement to
lecture in a southern city and toward the end of his journey was
compelled to use the section reserved for colored people, which in
this case was an end of a freight car. This, it will easily be under-
stood, was particularly obnoxious, and when the delegation which
went to meet him saw him in such surroundings they began to
apologize that coming to them had caused him to be so humiliated
and degraded. Drawing himself up to his full height, the grand
old man replied, "Gentlemen, by ignoble actions I may degrade
myself, but nothing and no man can degrade Frederick Douglass."
Those words should never be forgotten, for the lesson they teach
is worthy of imitation by all. Be master of your soul, do nothing
that is ignoble and whenever an attempt is made to embarrass or
humiliate you, you will be able to treat it with the contempt it
In 1845 Mr. Douglass went to Eui-ope to lecture on slavery ; on
the trip over he was not allowed a first cabin berth. As the ship
neared her journey's end, the captain gave to the first cabin passen-
gers a complimentary dinner, after which some of the passengers,
knowing of Douglass' presence on board, desired to hear him speak.
As soon as he began a great uproar was started by those who at
heart were slaveholders, and there were loud cries of "Kill him."
"Throw him overl)oard." and for a time he was in great danger.
The captain, however, took his part, and invited those who did not
wish to hear Douglass to leave the dining saloon, threatening that
if the speaker was again interrupted, every one of the disturbers
should be put in irons. Dougla.ss then went on and delivered one
of his most telling speeches.
Upon his arrival in England his lectur-es upon slavery wer(^
delivered to lai'ge aiuliences and won for himself and for his cause
many friends. A ]>urse of $750 was made up by his English friends
to purchase his liberty, and he returned to this country a free man.
In 1S47 lie ])('^;iii tlu' piililicat ion of a newspaper, "The North
Stai'. "" ill Koclif.itcr. X. V., and the pajxT was widely read by h)vers
of lil);'ity. Lt I'an several years. While living' in Rochester his
little daiiti'litei-. Husetta, apj)lied foi- admission to the public schools,
but was denied on account of color. Mr. Douj^huss at once bejijan
to fiji'lit the silly i)re.)udice and did not rest until "every door of
the j)ublic schools of Jloche.ster not only swung wide open to the
admission of his own children, but to every child of every race."
^Ir. Douglass had become an intimate friend of John Brown,
and in 1859 a di--ipatch was sent to the sheritt* of Philadeli)hia.
where Mr. Douglass was at the time, to arrest him for eomi)lieity
in the John Brown raid. The telegraph operator, being a friend
of Douglass, held up the dispatch and left his office in search of
Douglass' friends, advising them to hurry the latter out of the
country. This they did. and the dispatch was not delivered until
Douglass was well on the way to Rochester. He reached home in
safety, went over into Canada, thence to Europe Avhere he remained
until danger was over.
At the begininng of the Civil War he returned to this country
and helped persuade President Lincoln to arm the Negrees; the
colored regiments of Massachusetts were, raised with his active
assistance, his sons becoming members of the famous r)4th Massa-
Long after the Civil War Mr. Douglass told the following story
of his life to the pupils of a colored school in Talbot County, Mary-
land, the county in w^hich he was born : "I once knew a little eolore<l
boy whose father and mother died when he was six years old. He
was a slave and had no one to care for him. Ilie slept on a dirt
Hoor in a hovel, and in cold weather would crawl into a meal bag,
head-foremost, and leave his feet in the ashes to keep them warm.
Often he would roast an ear of corn and eat it to satisfy his hunger,
and many times has he crawied under the barn or stable and secured
eggs, which; he would roast in the fire and eat.
"This boy did not wear pants like you do, but a tow linen shirt.
Schools were unloiown to him, and he learned to spell from an old
Webster's spelling book, and to read and write from posters on
cellars and barn doors, while boys and men Avould help him. He
would then preach and speak, and s(K)n became well known. He
finally held several high positions and accumulated some wealth.
He wore broadcloth and did not have to divide crumbs with the
dogs under the table. That boy \vas Frederick Douglass.
"What was posrsible for me is possible for you. Do not think
because you are colored you ctumot accomplish juiythin^r. Strive
earnestly to add to your knowledge. 80 long as you remain in
ignorance, .so long will you fail to conmiand the respect of j'onr
fellownien. ' '
In September. 1870, Douglass became the editor of the Xeic
National Era at Washington, which was continued by his sons,
Lewis and Frederick.
Besides his splendid work in other directions, Mr. Douglass held
several public positions of honor and truf;t. In 1871 he was ap-
pointed assistant secretary to the Commission to San Domingo ;
upon finishing that task he was appointed a member of the Upper
House of the Territorial Legislature of the District of Columbia,
which he had previoiLsly chosen for his permanent home. In 1872
he was presidential eleetor-at-large for the state of New York ; he
was successively appointed United States Marshal for the Di strict
of Columbia, Recorder of Deeds for the same place, and U. S. ^lin-
i.ster to Haiti. The sympath}^ and insight which he showed for the
people of that Republic endeared him to them and his memory is
held in greatest reverence by all patriotic Haitians. ]Mr. Douglass
was married in 1884 to Miss Hielen Pitts.
Mr. Douglass died at his home, Cedar Hill, Anacostia, D. C,
February 20th. 1895, at the age of seventy-seven. An immense
throng attended the funeral services held in Metropolitan A. M. E.
Church, Washington, and many glowing tributes were paid to his
w^orth. Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton sent a letter which was read
by ]\Iiss Susan B. Anthony. The following is an extract: "I saw
]\Ir. Douglass first before a Boston audience, when he was fresh
from the land of bondage. He stood there like an African prince,
conscious of his dignity and power, grand in his physical propor-
tions, majestic in his w^rath, as with keen wit, satire and indigna-
tion he portrayed the bitterness of slavery, the humiliation of hav-
ing been subject to those who in all human virtues and capabilities
were inferior to himself. His denunciation of our national crime,
of the wild and guilty fantasy that men could hold property in
man — poured like a torrent that fairly made his hearers tremble.
"Thus I first saw him and wondered as I listened that any mortal
man should have ever tried to subjugate a being with such marvel-
ous powers, such self-respect, such intense love of liberty. Around
him sat the great anti-slavery orators of the day, watching his
effect on that immense audience, completely magnetized with his
eloquence, laughing and crying by turns with his rapid flights from
pathos to humor. All other speakers seemed tame after Douglass.
Sitting near I heard Wendell Phillips say to Lydia ]\Iaria Child,
'Verily, this boy, who has only just graduated from slaverv. throws
us all in the shade.' 'Ah,' she replied, 'the iron has entered his
soul and he knovsis tlie wTongs of slavery subjectively ; the rest of
you speak only from an objective point of view. "
Due to tile iiiitii-iii<i; efforts of tlie widow of Fi-edci'ick Doii^lfiss.
iMis. Helen Pitts Dou^'lnss, and afler many disappoint iiients and
discouragements, the Douglass Menioiial and Ilistorieal Assoeiation
wa,> chartered by Congress in !!)()( I. It was the most ardent desire
of Mrs. Douglass' heart that Cedar Hill slioidd l)ecome as dear to
the colored ]ieople as is M\. Vernon to <dl Anici-ica. Over and often
she discussed tliis matter with the writer, and on one occasion slie
said, "Oil, that 1 could make the people realize that there was never
in the history of the whole world such a man as Frederick Doug-
lass and that there never can be his like again. If every colored
jierson in America w(»uld give but one ])enny each Cedar Hill could
be made a fitting memoi-ial to him."
GEMS OF THiOUGHT
From ''Life and Times of Freclericl- Douglass''
"Conscience cainiot stand too mnch violence; once thoronglily
injured, who is he who can repair tlie damage?"
"Freedom of choice is the essence of accountability."
"The feeling of the nation must be quickened, the conscienc(^ of
the nation must be aroused."
"The secret of all oppression is in the pride, the power and the
avarice of man."
"Sorrow and desolation have their songs as well as peace and ,joy."
"Life is not lightly regarded by men of sane minds."
"Such is the power of public opinion that it is hard even for the
innocent to feel the hapi)y consolation of innocence when they
fall under the maledictions of this power."
"It is not a bad thing to have individuals or nations do right
though they do it from selfish motives. ' '
"Mr. Lincoln was not only a great President, but a great man — too
great to be small in anything."
"A man's head will not long remain wrong when his heart is
right. ' '
"If the Negro knows enough to fight for his country, he knows
enough to vote; if he knows enough to pay taxes for the sup-
port of the government, he knows enough to vote."
"I will continue to pray, labor and wait, believing that America
cannot always be insensible to the dictates of justice or deaf
to the voice of humanitv."
'Progress of a Race" — Crogman.
■ Men of Mark ' ' — Simmons
'Life and Times of Frederick Douglass'" — Douglass.
'Cyclopedia of American Biography "^ — Appleton.
CEDAR HILL, ANACOSTIA, D. G.
THE HOME OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS
THE INDEBTEDNESS UPON WHICH WAS PAID IN 1919, BY THE NATIONAL
ASSOCIATION OF COLORED WOMEN, OF WHICH
MRS. MARY B. TALBERT WAS THEN PRESIDENT.
H 73 78 544f
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